LOS ANGELES — “It’s high, it should never really be that high,” said Venice resident, 45-year-old, Gary Hall Jr, looking at his blood sugar meter. It reads "253."
“So I need to give myself a shot of insulin,” Hall said.
He has been a diabetic for two decades.
“It’s tough, it’s a real burden,” said Hall who is pretty tough himself.
After all, he defied not just the odds, but his own doctors, when months after his diagnosis, he went to the 2000 Summer Olympics for swimming and won gold.
“When I was diagnosed, it was March 1999 and I was told by two doctors that it was the end of my swimming career.”
Ten Olympic medals and two decades later, Hall, has become an activist to the new drumbeat of his life: diabetes.
“I’m going to Walgreens, it’s time to fill a prescription,” Hall said, riding in the back of an Uber.
It’s something that he and more than one in 10 Americans suffering from diabetes have to do once a month.
“When I was first diagnosed with diabetes in March of ‘99 it was a $5 copay for a $50 vial of insulin, and today, this vial is over $300 and a $90 copay,” Hall said.
It costs him upwards of $10,000 a year to manage his diabetes. Different products, and changes in insurance force him to go to different pharmacies. The rising costs have led some diabetics to ration their insulin, others have switched over to animal insulin, which is harder to manage, and has resulted in deaths.
“That has to stop, that has to stop, we need to be able to take better care of our own and it’s really upsetting,” Hall said.
To bring attention to the issue, Congressman Ted Lieu from the 33rd District invited Hall to be his guest at this year’s State of the Union.
We caught up with the congressman at a round-table event less than 24 hours before he left for DC.
He criticized the president for his lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act, which protects Americans with pre-existing conditions.
But despite his court challenge, President Trump promised Americans during his State of the Union Tuesday night that he wouldn’t do away with protections for chronically sick people.
“I have also made an ironclad pledge to American families. We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions,” said Trump.
Congressman Lieu also called out senate republicans for not bringing a handful of health care bills to a vote.
“We passed a bill HR 3 to lower prescription drug prices, and that does take into account the effort drug companies put in for R & D, but also makes sure the government can negotiate a fair price for Medi-Care drugs and then take that fair price and apply it to all drug prices in the private health insurance industry as well, and that way we lower health care costs for everyone,” Lieu said.
Hall says if his continued activism and candidness about his struggle helps to do that, it will mean more than gold.
“One of my greatest accomplishments was not winning Olympic medals, but was making that diagnosis a little bit less scary for kids and their families,” said Hall.
Families whose interests he’ll represent in front of the nation and the world. Before as an Olympian, this time as an activist.